There’s a village in Vietnam, named Son Trach about 2/3 of the way from Hanoi to Da Nang. This village is almost solely known due to nearby Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park and, in fact, is often just referred to as Phong Nha (pronounced like fong nya). The Park was established in 2001 (designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003) and is an area with an abundance of limestone karst peaks, which means many caves. It also happens to be home to the cave that is currently considered to be the world’s largest (Hang Sơn Đoòng).
Due to the growing popularity of the park, Son Trach village is also growing. When Michelle and I visited 2 years ago there was a hotel and a hostel in the village, with a farmstay a short distance outside. To get there, we took a train to a nearby town, then had to hire a private car to take us the rest of the way, about an hour ride.
We recently visited Son Trach again, back in November, with Michelle’s brother and his girlfriend (Craig and Ariel). We discovered that there are now many hotels and hostels, an ATM, and a regularly scheduled sleeper bus that makes a stop in the village. We were aiming to stay at the Farmstay, but as it was all booked they recommended the Farm-to-table homestay close by. The farm-to-table homestay is a great idea; a homestay experience with a family whose home is surrounded by their farm’s fields. The price, however, leads one to expect certain amenities that they have not yet worked up to. The family was very nice, though, and were eager to provide for us.
During our stay, we went on a day tour through the park’s jungle to several caves with Oxalis Adventure Tours. After picking us up in a (nicely air-conditioned) van we had about an hour drive to reach the base from which their treks take off. A walk through green fields surrounded by looming ridges of karst-peaked mountains took us to a rushing river we had to wade across. Still dripping with brown river water, we moved on and plunged into the jungle to: climb a few smaller peaks, do some brief exploration of a few caves, stop for a delicious lunch, and head back out the way we had come in. Though not as intensive (or muddy) as the cave tour we had experienced two years before, it was a great day and we slept well that night!
Follow this link to see a video of the buffalo feeding time we saw at the end of the day’s adventures.